Ireland’s celebration of Halloween stretches back 2,000 years to the ancient festival of Samhain, when it was believed that on October 31, the veil between the world of the living and that of the dead was at its thinnest. Bonfires were lit to guide the spirits, masks were worn to scare evil away, and tales of hauntings abounded.
The world’s familiar Halloween rituals stem from those early days, and across the island the modern-day spook fest is naturally celebrated with gusto with some of the greatest festivals around.
The Spirits of Meath Festival is one of the big ones, as is Derry/Londonderry’s Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival from October 27-31, the biggest Halloween party in Europe which this year marks the festival’s 30th birthday, while Dublin celebrates its famous son, Dracula author, Bram Stoker Festival from October 28-31, a three-day festival.
Ireland offers numerous ghostly tales of apparitions to choose from.
Visitors can head for the Abbey of the Black Hag where they might catch a glimpse of the ghost of the prioress and hear the screams of the Countess of Desmond, who was buried alive in the medieval convent; or go south to Cork where the tortured echoes of ghostly inmates have been heard and even recorded in the abandoned Cork District Lunatic Asylum.
Ballygally Castle Hotel is a seventeenth-century castle has been haunted for 400 years and even has a bedroom set aside for the resident ghost, which can be visited. Visitors can take a trip to Glenullin in County Londonderry where Abhartach, star of the first vampire legend in the world, is buried, and is said to rise from time to time.
At the grave of Captain Boyd in St Patrick‘s Cathedral, Dublin, one might see the ghost of a black Newfoundland dog, who so loved his master that he would not leave his grave, and was starved to death.
The city’s streets and cultural venues host various programmes of food, markets, music, theatre, children’s events, street animation, costume making, storytelling, tours and trails and all together spooky happenings.
The atmosphere builds throughout the weekend as locals across the city decorate their homes, businesses and venues. A mass metamorphosis sees locals and visitors alike shapeshift with unique costume creations to take to the streets on All Hallow’s Eve.